By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–The story appeared in the Jerusalem Post of September 21. It was headed “Oren urges Jewish leaders to support peace moves.” The story described a meeting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren held in Washington with Israeli and Jewish reporters.
Ambassador Oren’s request that American Jewish leaders publicly support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was almost completely ignored.
Some background. Since 1948 American Jewish leaders have listened closely to the Israeli Embassy. The ambassador never had to ask for support. He described Israeli policy and Jewish leaders followed even when Israeli actions were contrary to American policy.
Support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a notable example. The United States has opposed every settlement as contrary to international law on occupied territory and a serious obstacle to peace . But American opposition to settlements, for political reasons, was never forceful, and almost 300,000 Jews have settled in the West Bank.
Which explains why, for the first time, Ambassador Oren’s plea for support was greeted with silence. Even by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. For years he has acted as the self-appointed spokesman for Israeli policies. Now he is occupied in wiggling his opposition to the Islamic center, two blocks from ground zero. Read more…
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–When I visited Israel recently, I told my Israeli family –daughter, granddaughter and a brand new great-grandson — that they were living in a bubble of prosperity and peace. As Time reported last week the last suicide bomber was over two years ago. What was happening to the Palestinians on the other side of the wall hardly affected them.
Oddly enough, the majority of Palestinians, who live in the Palestine Authority-governed cities, with an efficient American-trained police force, are living in a similar bubble of prosperity.
Outside the two bubbles are the Arab citizens of Israel, twenty percent of the population, and the Palestinian farmers surrounding the cities living under the confusing and often brutal rule of the occupying Israeli army, assisted by the Jewish settlers the army is assigned to protect.
Lying in wait, licking its chops, ready to pounce and prick the bubbles lies Iran. If they achieve the bomb and attack, it will be doomsday.
But it’s not going to happen. Iran will not use the bomb to destroy Israel because they know that Israel has second strike capability. Israel has nuclear-armed submarines lurking in the Indian Ocean aimed at Iran’s cities. Read more…
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida — Thirty or forty years ago, at a time when women were beginning to break out of the traditional female occupations of teaching and nursing, a book promoter had a cute idea. She would ask a writer to query high school seniors on their career ambitions and publish the results.
The writer found one significant difference between Jewish and non-Jewish girls. The Christians still chose nursing as their first choice. The Jews placed nursing at the bottom of their list.
Cleaning bedpans was not the advice that Jewish mothers passed on to their daughters. They would rather be engineers. The non-Jews were satisfied with engineers in the second place of their choice list. Nursing still claimed first place.
I wonder whether the same fact of Jewish girls shunning nursing in favor of hi-tech start-ups holds true in the Jewish state.
I ask this question because of what I learned at Chautauqua from Maram Higazi a 21-year-old Moslem nursing student at the Hadassah nurse’s school in Jerusalem.
Maram is a resident of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the Oasis of Peace, where she attended the primary school I built twenty years ago. Together with a Jewish boy who had graduated the school, they were invited to Chautauqua to talk about their unique village and the bilingual, bicultural, binominal primary school they had both attended.
Maram looks and dresses like an attractive American girl. But she is a devout Moslem who prays five times a day, she told me. She wears a traditional hijab to cover her hair only when she prays.
Her father is a doctor who heads the Department of Biochemistry at Hadassah. He is one of two Arabs who heads departments at the Hadassah Medical Center. He rises at 5 every morning to pray, she said.
Maram will enter her junior year at the Henrietta Szold nursing school next month. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing in two years. And here is the surprise.
“Of the sixty girls in my class,” she said, “twenty-six are Arabs.”
The same proportion of Arabs to Jews holds true in the other three classes, she said. That is over 43 percent of the graduates of Hadassah’s nursing school will come from the Arab minority, who are, except for the residents of East Jerusalem, citizens of Israel.
Maram identifies herself as a Palestinian Israeli. She, and the village of Jews and Arabs in which she lives, are the best answers to the bigoted American Jews who identify all Moslems with anti-Israel suicide bombers.
Maram says that she finds it wonderful that so many American Jews have such a strong attachment to Israel despite the fact that many have never been there.
One Chautauquan took it for granted that Maram and the Jewish boy, Omar Schwartz, were traveling together as a couple. She was quickly disabused. Omar keeps kosher. He refused to eat meat while he was in Chautauqua.
Many years ago, an Arab mayor of the village explained to me that because they live together and are close friends as they grow up, they cling to their own ethnicity and religion.
Unlike American schools where interdating and intermarriage are common, there has never been a romance between Jewish and Arab graduates of the Lurie school at the Oasis of Peace.
I will leave further details to the sociologists. They must also look into the question of why so many Jewish girls are avoiding the honorable profession of nursing.
Maram chose to be a nurse, she said, because it combined her love of science and her desire to work with people.
It was a pleasure for me to listen to these two kids chattering in Hebrew. “My Hebrew is better than his Arabic,” Maram explained. Both speak perfect English with an American accent.
They are a credit to Israel and their village and to the school which I built.
Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida. His column appears in The Jewish Journal of South Florida
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–The Israel government’s Ministry of Interior has been a semi-independent Orthodox principality under both Labor and Likud cabinets for 60 years. David Ben Gurion’s mistake was to take them into his government to stave off his leftist opposition.
The Ministry, run by the Shas party with 11 percent of the Knesset, does what it pleases. It handles many aspects of the lives of the majority of the population including the population registry. It takes on many functions of other minstries such as housing for Orthodox from the Ministry of Housing and watching the borders together with customs and police.
It has also supplanted the Municipality of Jerusalem in ordering the bulldozing of Arab homes in East Jerusalem. It doesn’t consult other cabinet members before taking action, often leaving the prime minister to pick up the pieces.
In recent months the Ministry made news with the following actions:
1. Welcomed Vice President Joe Biden to Jerusalem with the announcement that it would build a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. Biden was angry. Secretary of State Clinton was furious. In the resulting brouhaha Prime Minister Netanyahu was forced to extend the freeze on new construction in settlements to East Jerusalem.
2. The Ministry spat in the face of the Palestine Authority by refusing to allow the famous American iconoclast, Prof. Noam Chomsky,to cross Allenby Bridge en route to the Palestinian Bir Zeit University where he was to deliver two lectures. The Prime Minister’s office was forced to apologize. Prof. Chomsky was not entering Israel and he should not have been stopped at Allenby Bridge said Mark Rogev, the government spokesman.
Prof. Chomsky delivered his lectures by video, He then dissipated much of the outrage in academic circles by calling on Israel’s active enemy, the Hezbollah chief in Lebanon.
3. Declared war on the children of illegal foreign workers. Minister of Interior Eli Yishai ordered them separated from their parents and deported to their native lands. This was too much for the Israeli public and Minister Yishai agreed to postpone action until the end of the school year.
I had my own run in with the Ministry some 30 years ago. I rescued a young British girl, who had been living illegally in Rosh Pina for five years, from the clutches of the Ministry.
All of the Rosh Pina officials were her friends. The Rosh Pina rabbi sponsored her for conversion to Judaism. Strangely the ministry refused. They were on a campaign to rid the country of goyim who had overstayed their visas. The Chief of Police told her: “I’ve received an order to pick you up. Please go hide. Get out of my jurisdiction.”
She moved in with mutual friends in a nearby village and that is where I found her.
“For five years I have been living as a Jew in Rosh Pina,” she told me. “I celebrated all the Jewish holidays. Now I want to convert and they won’t let me.”
I figured that I could use my press connections to help her. Telling her story might shame the Ministry to reverse course. I was right.
The novelist Yoram Kaniuk was writing a column for Maariv. I asked him to write a column about her. But first he had to get the Ministry’s side of the story.
As soon as the Ministry heard that the press was interested they decided to admit her to a religious kibbutz to study for conversion. Kaniuk never wrote a column.
Thirty years later I had dinner with her. She is now Jeanette Cohen, married to a British immigrant. She is in charge of security for the kibbutz of Amiad and she is a volunteer border cop that patrols the Northern frontier. A son is in the Army. Altogether a model citizen.
Today there are over a thousand children of illegal foreign workers. They are registered in government schools and so are easier to deal with than their parents. Minister Eli Yishai devised the devious plan to deport the children and he hoped the parents would follow.
The brutality of attacking children and separating families aroused the press and public. Yishai backtracked. He agreed to wait until the end of the school year and he appointed an interministerial committee to recommend future action.
Etta Prince-Gibson, editor of the Jerusalem Report, tells the heart-breaking story of one child whom she calls Kimberly.
Kimberly was born in Tel Aviv 15 years ago to a young black maid from Ghana who got herself pregnant. Kimberly’s native language is Hebrew. She has never been to Ghana. On the basis of her excellent grades she was admitted to a prestigious Tel Aviv high school.
She is active in the scouts. She is a prominent member of a scout unit that will travel to Europe this summer. Kimberly will have to stay home. She has no passport. She told Prince-Gibson:
“A few weeks ago we celebrated Passover in the school. It symbolizes freedom, liberty for everyone. Everton is happy that we have a Jewish state, a homeland. But why can’t I be a part of it?”
Jeannette Cohen succeeded to become a part of it with my help. Who will help Kimberly?
Contrasting with the Ministry of Interior is the Tel Aviv Municipality which believes that Israel needed the foreign workers for health care, farm work and construction. They may have overstayed their Ministry of Interior visas but they are now part of Tel Aviv’s multicultural society.
Under the heading: “Through Books, Tel Aviv Offers Welcoming Island to Illegal Workers Who Share the City”
the Forward of June 4 tells the story of the library opened for foreigners in Levinsky Park in South Tel Aviv where most of the illegal workers have congregated.
The library was the initiative of an artists cooperative named ArtTeam. It was welcomed by the Tel Aviv Municipality which provided the space in the park and $6,500 for operating expenses. Opened in October, it has 4,000 books in many languages on the shelves and 2,000 more still in boxes. Most were flown into Israel free by El Al. Recently books in Hebrew were added because the children were demanding them. The Forward reporter found children from Nepal, the Philippines and Ghana chattering in Hebrew. All of them, like Kimberly, had been born in Tel Aviv.
The volunteer librarians can’t understand the titles of many of the books on the shelves. Recently, the Forward relates, one of the librarians found by chance that she was handling the Nepalese translation of Mein Kampf, which had been included in the shipment from Katamandu. Hitler’s anti-Semitic tract was quickly expunged.
The struggle continues. The Hebrew speaking children at the library in care still under the threat of deportation by the Ministry of Interior.
Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida. His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida.
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–His Excellency Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, hosted a dinner recently for leaders of the Democratic Party. Guest of honor was Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Among the Democratic big shots attending was Marc R. Stanley, a Texas attorney and founding chairman of the Democratic Jewish Council.
We are indebted to Mr. Stanley for his report in the Huffington Post of Ambassador Oren’s remarks at the dinner.
The ambassador could not sing praise for Obama any higher. He ranked Obama with President Harry Truman, who overrode his Secretary of State in 1948 to recognize the newly born Israel, and with President Richard Nixon, who instituted an airlift to supply Israel during the Yom Kippur war.
Ambassador Oren blasted those who have been falsely attacking Obama for partisan advantage. His message has slowed the barrage of anti-Obama diatribes which have filled the internet lately, including Alan Dershowitz, Ronald Lauder and Ed Koch.
The ambassador told a shocking story of an imagined snub of Netanyahu by Obama which many Israelis believe. Here is what really happened.
When Netanyahu was in Washington in March, he and Ambassador Oren and an entourage of experts called on Obama for a business meeting which lasted into the night.
At a business meeting, the ambassador related, the visiting head of state is not ceremoniously met under the portico. Reporters are not called out of the press room and there are no photo-ops.
Netanyahu and his party entered the White House through the business entrance. They talked with Obama and other officials for several hours and after the president had retired they were given the rare privilege, the ambassador reported, of staying in the White House to finish their work.
Ambassador Oren described how shocked he was when he woke the next morning to find the Israel press had large headlines on the “vicious snub” that their prime minister had suffered at the White House, how he had been snuck in via a back door and how reporters and photographers had been forbidden.
Meanwhile, concludes the Israeli envoy, “President Obama is working relentlessly to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to promote peace in Israel.”
Peace in Israel, as most Israelis have recognized, depends on achieving a two-state solution. And a two-state solution depends on the success of the proximity talks that have begun under the aegis of George Mitchell.
Most Israelis believe that proximity talks are second best to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. As sop to the Israelis, the State Department, in its May 9 announcement of the beginning of the proximity talks said that they would lead to direct talks.
Peace between Israel and Palestine will not happen without deep sacrifices by both parties. These difficult compromises will come easier in three-way proximity talks than in face-to-face dirrect talks,
Direct talks, which have always been Israel’s preference, will come eventually but not for many many months. Not until George Mitchell and his boss, Hillary Clinton, and her boss Barack Obama, are convinced that Mitchell and Netanyahu and Mitchell and Abbas, have solved all the insoluble core issues, borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
Mitchell will not be just shuttling between the parties as the New York Times put it. Mitchell will be discussing, arguing, putting forth new ideas and bridging proposals to both parties.
The talks will continue into 2011 and possibly into 2012. Success will help elect Obama to a second term.
But success will depend on both parties refraining from what the State Department called “significant actions” that would seriously undermine trust and endanger the talks.
Palestine Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has already said that he will refrain from announcing a Palestine State in August of next year as he had planned. But Netanyahu has not as yet announced that the ten month freeze will be extended.
It will come. Meanwhile Obama has asked Congress for another $200 million for Israel to help them deploy the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel’s security depends on averting possible missiles from Iran and its agents, Hezbolla and Hamas.
As Mr. Anthony quoted Ambassador Oren: “The friendship between the United States and Israel remains rock solid.”
Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida. His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida.